Extracting Insights with Data Visualization Tools (Part 2 of 2)

Last Updated: April 27, 2017

Continuing with our review of data visualization tools, we now introduce you four more tools that aim to satisfy very different user needs.


Datawrapper is ideal if you want to create a professionally looking graph in a few minutes. Originally envisioned for world-class journalists, Datawrapper is an open source project supported by ABZV and developed by Journalism++ Cologne. This tool enables anyone to create graphic design-like visualizations in four simple steps, without any programming skills. 

Datawrapper offers only 10 of the most common chart types, including tables and maps, with the option to upload data from Excel, CSVs, PDFs or the web. Charts become interactive and readable even on mobile devices.

Technically, you can create charts from files with thousands of rows; however, as today’s browsers are not fast enough, the chart would render very slow. For more information on how to prepare your data for Datawrapper, visit this tutorial.  

Datawrapper provides no free hosting services: you have to manually download the chart or map you have created and then upload this chart to a webpage, blog or CMS. With the free version, you can download charts as ZIP. The paid version also allows embedding charts in your website.

Visit the public gallery to see the charts that other users have created recently. 


Defining itself as ‘the missing link between spreadsheet applications and vector graphics editors’, RAW is a very different type of open web tool. RAW was developed at the DensityDesign Research Lab (Politecnico di Milano) to create custom vector-based visualizations on top of the D3.js library. In other words, you will not find standard line and bar graphs in Raw’s library of 16 chart types.

Similar to Tableau, RAW is a very intuitive tool that allows mapping the information in a drag-and-drop style. Take a peek at this video tutorial to see RAW in action.   

RAW works with CSV and TSV files as well as with copied-and-pasted texts from other applications like Microsoft Excel. Visualizations can be exported in SVG or PNG format and embedded in your web page.

RAW encourages users to suggest new layouts and share their work, offering an API to create and edit charts. Moreover, RAW can also be run locally on your machine. Regardless, all data uploaded to RAW is processed only by the web browser. No server-side operations or storages are performed. This means that no one will be able to see, touch or copy your data.


Plotly is an easy-to-use web app that allows users to not only create charts and dashboards online, but also conduct serious statistical analysis. It is cloud-based and works with any data or file type including Excel, Python, MATLAB, R, SAS, and SPSS.

Plotly offers a vast collection of chart types –including amazing 3D graphs– that can be created either with APIs or web app. You can edit anything about a graph and embed it in an iframe in your blog, Notebook, or website. Check these tutorials for assistance.

With Plotly, you can control your privacy and sharing. Public sharing is completely free.

Something very unique about Plotly is that you can stream data into graphs using APIs, an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, or an IPython Notebook.

Timeline JS

As the name indicates, this tool is different from the ones we have introduced before in that it allows you to create timelines with your chronological information. Developed by Zach Wise and the Knight Lab, TimelineJS is a free, open-source tool used by popular websites such as Time and Radiolab. 

With this tool you can generate timelines that work well on a desktop screen or mobile device in four easy steps. Watch this tutorial for more information.  

TimelineJS can pull in media from a variety of sources including Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Dailymotion, Google Maps, Wikipedia, SoundCloud, and Document Cloud.